Claire Coutinho, a close aide of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, got a big promotion as his new Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary in a mini reshuffle on Thursday.
Ms Coutinho, 38, becomes the second Goan-origin minister after Home Secretary Suella Braverman in the Sunak Cabinet and has a tough brief ahead of her as energy costs have been soaring in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
She has committed herself to work on safeguarding energy security and reducing bills for families struggling with a cost-of-living crisis.
In her first Cabinet role, Ms Coutinho replaced Grant Shapps after he was promoted to the post of Defence Secretary following the resignation of Ben Wallace.
“I am delighted to have been appointed Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero. I will work with the Prime Minister to safeguard our energy security, reduce bills for families, and build cleaner, cheaper, homegrown energy,” she tweeted.
Like Mr Sunak, UK-born Coutinho grew up in a family connected with the National Health Service (NHS) and was in the field of investment banking before joining politics.
The pro-Brexiter with a Master’s degree in Maths and Philosophy from Oxford University was elected member of Parliament for East Surrey, south-east England, in 2019 with a promise to serve people.
“I was elected the Member of Parliament for East Surrey in 2019. Growing up, I watched my parents work as GPs (general practitioners) in the NHS, listening to people’s problems and solving them as best they could. It is in that spirit that I hope to serve the people of East Surrey,” reads the London-born politician’s mission statement as a Tory MP.
Mr Sunak’s decision to catapult her into the cabinet – as its youngest member in fact – marks her out instantly as a major figure in Conservative politics, present and future, the BBC reported.
She says she started her career at Merrill Lynch, before leaving the City of London firm for a career in social justice policy.
“I focused on a wide range of issues from education to financial inclusion, to the regeneration of deprived communities including at the Centre for Social Justice. I then spent two years within government as a Special Adviser, including at HM Treasury. My local priorities include fixing our roads, supporting the local economy, and protecting our environment,” she adds in her mission statement.
Having worked as special adviser in the UK Treasury department, Ms Coutinho went on to become an aide to Mr Sunak in his role as Chief Secretary to the Treasury and later Chancellor of the Exchequer.
She backed the British Indian candidate for Prime Minister in his leadership bid last year and was later rewarded with a junior ministerial post in the Department for Education.
“Big thank you to my stellar team who supported me as Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing. I know my successor, David Johnston, will be champing at the bit to improve the lives of children and families up and down the country,” she tweeted after her promotion.
“From the largest expansion of childcare in history, to our new Freedom of Speech Act, to driving forward reforms in SEND, for foster carers, in children’s social care and for childminders. It has been a privilege to work with so many talented people,” she said.
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